Quoted: Priyamvada Gopal on Vogue Italia’s Black Issue

The real problem is less the absence of non-white faces from the media than the repeated underlining of “whiteness” as universally relevant even within the already “special” domain of women’s interests. A quick survey of columnists writing on “women’s issues” in the British media underscores this. Hardly any are non-white, while those that are will be invariably positioned as specialists on “multicultural”, “Muslim” or “black” issues. Put simply, white people have ordinary lives and concerns while non-white people have “issues”. “White” is content-free; everybody else is marked by their ethnicity. [...]

Fashion, of course, has long relied on non-white women – the multitudes of farm and factory workers who pluck the cotton, tend the silkworms, weave the fabrics and sew the garments. Their invisibility and ongoing exploitation by the industry is not going to be addressed by a proliferation of Tyras and Naomis. Nor are difficult issues of ethnic divisions and social marginalisation about to be sorted by special issues which only render whiteness further invisible and, hence, unquestionably normative. Maybe it is time now for a “white issue” with a focus, for once, on “whiteness”, what underlies its privileges and internal divisions, and how it perpetuates itself as a norm, one so entrenched that it has the power to render everything else a separate issue.

— Priyamvada Gopal, the Guardian’s Comment is Free, “Vogue: all white now?”